Bernstein - On the Waterfront | BIS BIS2278

Bernstein - On the Waterfront


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Label: BIS

Cat No: BIS2278

Format: SACD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 29th March 2018

Gramophone Editor's Choice



1944 saw the premiere of the ballet Fancy Free, 25-year old Leonard Bernstein’s first major composition as well as the first in a string of scores for the stage and film. In order to celebrate the centennial of Bernstein’s birth in 1918, Christian Lindberg has gathered music from five different productions spanning a period of 13 years – from Fancy Free to the iconic musical West Side Story, premiered in 1957. The disc is bookended by the sparkling and witty Overture to Candide and Three Dance Episodes from the musical On the Town.

Also included is the substantial Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront, developed by Bernstein from the score he wrote for Elia Kazan’s classic film. The drama of this tale of love and betrayal set amid the docks of Hoboken in New Jersey is brought out by Bernstein’s music, which seethes with dramatic tension. Making its first appearance on BIS in these flamboyant and life-enhancing scores, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra clearly relishes the opportunity to let its collective hair down. The players are egged on by Lindberg, known for his ability to energize both orchestras and audiences.


I do so like how the ubiquitous Candide Overture is possessed here of the tightness and drive of its pit-band origins (the antithesis of Bernstein’s overblown DG account). There’s that hint of breathlessness and the spectre of a rictus grin to spirit us across continents to witness the worst of this best of all possible worlds. ... The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic put on such a good show throughout this disc. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story find them rounding corners that challenge the very best big bands... The star turn, though, is Bernstein’s only film score, On the Waterfront, encapsulated into a thrillingly atmospheric tone poem counterpointing the brutality of Elia Kazan’s Oscar-winning movie with its yearning and triumphant vindication of the human spirit. ... Thrilling stuff, wonderfully captured by the BIS engineers.  Edward Seckerson
Gramophone June 2018

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